Prince William has opened up about the “raw” grief he felt after the sudden death of his mother, Princess Diana, as he and other young royals ramp up a campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues.
In an unexpectedly personal interview with GQ magazine, the Duke of Cambridge spoke to Alastair Campbell – the former Labour spin doctor who himself suffers from depression – about the impact of losing his mother in a car crash aged 15.
“I am in a better place about it than I have been for a long time, where I can talk about her more openly, talk about her more honestly, and I can remember her better, and publicly talk about her better,” the 34-year-old royal, who is second in line to the British throne, says.
"It has taken me almost 20 years to get to that stage. I still find it difficult now because at the time it was so raw. And also it is not like most people’s grief, because everyone else knows about it, everyone knows the story, everyone knows her.
“It is a different situation for most people who lose someone they love, it can be hidden away or they can choose if they want to share their story.”
As part of the interview, Kensington Palace released a new photo of William, his wife Kate Middleton and their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
“I would like to have had her advice,” William says of his mother. “I would love her to have met Catherine and to have seen the children grow up. It makes me sad that she won’t, that they will never know her.”
The Duke of Cambridge tributes his family for keeping him grounded in his public role.
“I could not do my job without the stability of the family,” he says. “Stability at home is so important to me. I want to bring up my children in a happy, stable, secure world and that is so important to both of us as parents.”
He says he particularly wants his children, George and Charlotte, to lead a normal life:
“I want George to grow up in a real, living environment, I don’t want him growing up behind palace walls, he has to be out there. The media make it harder but I will fight for them to have a normal life.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with Prince Harry, are working with the Heads Together campaign to smash the taboo that surrounds mental health.
“I cannot understand how families, even behind closed doors, still find it so hard to talk about it, William says. “I am shocked we are so worried about saying anything about the true feelings we have. Because mental illness is inside our heads, invisible, it means others tread so carefully, and people don’t know what to say, whereas if you have a broken leg in plaster, everyone knows what to say.”
By opening up about his grief over Diana’s death, William follows in the footsteps of his brother Harry – who last month revealed how he came “close to breakdown” after repressing his feelings for many years.
“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” the 32-year-old told journalist mental health campaigner Bryony Gordon, for the inaugural episode of her podcast Mad World.
“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.”
The prince was encouraged by his brother to seek therapy and is now “in a good place” because of the “process I have been through”.
Photos: British GQ and Rex Features